Lynk direct two-way satellite-to-mobile phone system proved on hundreds of handsets

Lynk Global’s pre-production satellite “Shannon” has connected with and registered to “hundreds of mobile phones” in initial tests, according to the company, with demonstrations conducted with three agencies in the UK, Bahamas, and Central African Republic. The company is touting the “critical milestone” and providing more highlights of what it has found

“Six years ago, the entire world thought it was impossible for a satellite to connect two-ways to existing mobile phones in use today,” says Charles Miller, Lynk’s CEO and cofounder. “Lynk has now done the impossible. We recently announced the first operators to sign up for our Flagship Carrier Program, Aliv in the Bahamas and Telecel Centrafique in the Central African Republic. These and others will launch commercial services in their countries in July 2022, beginning our journey to serve the unconnected around the world.” 

Shannon was launched to orbit on the SpaceX Transporter-2 mission June 30, 2021.  Among the hundreds of mobile phones “registered” by the satellite in testing since it started operations were some in Virginia which Lynk connected to despite the ambient RF noise created by millions of cell phones in the area.  The milestone provides Lynk can provide ordinary unmodified mobile phones with text messaging, voice, and broadband services using its proprietary core technology.

Lynk successfully repeated its Shannon connectivity tests in the United Kingdom with testing permission from Ofcom and in the Bahamas with the support of its MNO partner Aliv.  Tests repeatedly demonstrated two-way call flow required for a phone to connect to a Lynk “cell tower in space” satellite, including multiple instances of uplink and downlink signaling, a device request for channel access, and corresponding authentication and location update procedures.

“Lynk has provided independent testing data that proves they are connecting existing Aliv devices that roam onto the Lynk system on areas outside the Aliv coverage footprint in the Bahamas,” said Dr. Stephen Curran, Aliv’s CTO. “The testing has proven the technology’s ability to simultaneously register and authenticate mobile devices. Lynk will provide a critical maritime communication service for our users. The Caribbean is also known for extreme weather events, and for earthquakes. Lynk will assist Aliv in providing emergency communications back-up when the network experiences major issues, and our sites are down.”

Use cases Lynk believes it can make money with include providing cellular connectivity to extend and enhance terrestrial cell tower coverage, such as with partners Aliv and CAF carrier Telecel Centrafrique. Providing a backup to terrestrial cellular systems is also a service/feature of Lynk, but CEO Charles Miller would not get into specifics on revenue models and flows into the company, with different models applicable to different markets.

Lynk has an initial FCC license to launch 10 small satellites for production operations and intends to launch its first one in January 2022, adding others throughout the year as rideshare opportunities become available. The company is seeking to launch over 5,100 satellites to provide global continuous coverage.

Doug Mohney

Doug Mohney, a principal at Cidera Analytics, has been working and writing about IT and satellite industries for over 20 years. His real world experience including stints at two start-ups, a commercial internet service provider that went public in 1997 for $150 million and a satellite internet broadband company. Follow him on Twitter at DougonTech or contact him at dmohney139 (at) gmail (dot) com.

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